Monthly Archives: April 2011

Sir Ken Robinson

The end of this talk (LINK) seems clipped! Ah well. Quick comments. He starts by saying 2 things I don’t buy into about why we need schools 1) “How do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century?” and 2) “How do we educate our children so they have a sense of cultural identity, so that we can pass on the cultural genes of our communities.”

First of all, I don’t like to think of my kids (or any other, or any people of any age for that matter) as cogs in an economy. Why not restate/reframe this on a personal level — we want our kids to grow up to be happy and effective adults — or something like that? I mean, does anyone send their kids to school because it’s what is best for the economy or the society at large? Probably not common. And 2) I doubt “the culture” would disappear — cultures and societies have existed for millenia without schools.

Now, as to his various points about current schools pumping out standardized kids meant for factory work that doesn’t exist anymore. Sure. But he doesn’t really get into any specific examples for how to solve or reform. Does he? One of the reviews of his book from 2001 — — says essentially the same thing. (That his ideas for fixing things come at the end, and are very conservative.) Too bad but I guess not surprised. You would think he or his editor would have browsed the list of alternative education models at wikipedia as a place to start in educating himself on whether anyone had any interesting ideas about education in the 21st century!
Any divergent/creative thinkers in the educational model arena itself?!?
(Hint: Sudbury Valley School… founded 1968)

Sounds like yet another case of a entertaining talk or nice magazine article being stretched into a book! I should read it first before commenting. Sorry.

A little(?) better is his 2010 TED TALK (TRANSCRIPT)
where he says:
1. “there is a hunger for videos of me.”
2. that an education revolution is needed (vs reform)
3. that education as it is now is destructive — ” education… dislocates very many people from their natural talents.”
4. there is an obsession with getting people to college
5. having a passion changes everything
5. recognizes that things should be personalized, but is still thinking in terms of teachers and curriculum vs the students themselves doing the personalization (which is strange, since it is at odds with his recognition of the passion/motivation issue)

Books from Sir Ken Robinson:
– Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative 2001
– The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything 2009

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Filed under Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Play is life

“… play is at the heart of post-industrial education. It is, in its essence, the spontaneous application of all the activities useful in coping with life. In fact, play is coping with life — not “practice” for life, but life itself for those who engage in it.
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He’s home!

I don’t know if this is surprising or not, but I am not kidding at all when I say that (on days when I am not involved in the carpool) when A gets back from a day at Sudbury Valley School, it feels pretty much EXACTLY as it did as it does when a parent gets back from work back when you were a kid, or a friend (college housemates), or my spouse. They were missed, and now they are back, and that is pretty much it. I mean, often they are interested in talking about their day and/or I want to hear. But often not. Upon returning back, one sometimes need to shift gears, decompress, whatever. Time to do something else. It’s all life. It’s not ANY different. He is living his life and I am honored to be able to share it with him! Sure, I am still the parent and with that comes a slight difference in some aspects, but not really in this situation, this moment. Maybe this is how all parents feel when their kids return from a traditional school, but I bet not completely since there is homework and grades and MCAS and all that stuff.

Anyway, it feels right.

Here’s how a former student puts it… a little more eloquently:

“Sudbury Valley was just “life” for ten years. It was everything… I woke up in the morning and said, ‘I’m going to school and I’m living life. This is my life and I’m in it.'”

(from “Reflections on the Sudbury School Concept”, 1999, page 125)
I’m sorry, but that is so amazing!

Play Is Life
Khalil Gibran “Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

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“Teacheria is the drive to give lessons; it is not curable, but the symptoms can be managed…”
– Naomi Aldort

See also:
– Essay: “The evil of the teaching moment” by Hanna Greenberg
– The discussion of three levels of learning… “curious probing” vs “entertainment style” vs “unstoppable mastery learning” from “Do People Learn from Courses?” in: The Sudbury Valley School Experience, pages 90-99

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Filed under alternative education, homeschooling, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, unschooling

Summer with a WORKING hrv – latent vs sensible loads

Last summer our HRV was mostly busted/confused. It was confused by controller wiring and was running in recirc mode where no fresh-air is pulled in. I figured it out using this CO2 meter after being annoyed that CO2 levels (monitored by a Telaire 7001) were not dropping in the house, even when the HRV was running on high/5.

Anyway, the point is, it will be interesting to see if we need to do something like the link below describes this summer. Namely using our standalone dehumidifier to dry the house off since we will probably not often actually need much AC (when it was 100F last summer, we would turn it on just a little at around 5pm). Or maybe the hot-water heat pump will dehumidify things enough even with the HRV bringing in some moist outside air (it’s pretty ridiculously humid at times in the summer here in MA).

Actually, I think the minisplits have a dehumidify mode, but I bet there is a catch.

LINK (see the section “Reduced Heat Gain” and the photo “Photograph 6: Hotel Room Fix”)

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Filed under erik-green, HVAC, passive house, superinsulation, zero energy home

Go small or go home?

Here’s how I see it…. if you are building/renovating a house and you are trying to:

a) build net-zero (primary energy) instead of the typical approach (climate-independent) of keeping utility bills to less than a few thousand dollars (meaning less insulation in warmer climates)


b) not trying to go (too) broke


c) you have good sun

then you have a few options:

1. passivhaus with PV
2. more typical superinsulated with PV
3. passive solar with woodstove and PV
4. active solar (perhaps not with even a woodstove) and PV. Done right, I suspect this active solar can be done on the cheap — the Yahoo Groups SolarHeat and SimplySolar and Gary’s website have some smart people with some ideas. (One needs to be able to get through 5 days of clouds to have 97.5% solar fraction)

In the first two cases, there is some advantage to building a small house. In the latter two, less so, because if the solar thermal (heating & hot water) is sized appropriately, then who cares how big the house is! The sun is free!

From what I can tell so far (our 1-year experience), here are the problems with small/ish houses:
1. It might mean you are building/buying something a little weird or not typical. So if you are unsure how long you will be there, resale could be an issue untill we get to the point that people are generally drooling over superinsulated homes.
2. If you have little kids (and especially if you are in a cold climate and/or don’t live in cohousing with a big shared common house) you might go a little bonkers if you don’t have room to let them run around in circles.
3. Stuff. Junk. Accumulation. (And see #2 if you buy your kids too many useless toys)
4. A smaller sun-facing wall/roof means less room for solar panels.

So, if you are going to build small and have kids, there is some advantage (I think) to building on as few stories as possible. Ignore the “a cube has the least surface area” business. It’s not worth worrying about (too much) if you have kids. Don’t waste room with hallways. But try somehow to have a loop! Keep lots of rooms. Just make them smaller. Don’t be afraid to use point-source heating. We wimped out a bit and have 4-heads to our minisplit system (one per floor). But it would have worked fine with just 2 certainly. I still like a basement. Nice way to get the mechanicals out of above ground places with views. And room for a solar heated water tank.

That’s the view from here.

Do you have kids and live in a small/superinsulated house? Let me know how it’s going? Right now we have 8 people (4 kids under 6, 4 adults) living in what PHPP calls 1741 sqft TFA (treated floor area). And it’s fine. Beat that! Actually, I bet you could. As we built “up”. Do as I say, not as I do! 😉

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Filed under erik-green, heating with wood, passive house, solar, superinsulation, zero energy home

Unix Finger => AIM “Away Messages” => Facebook Status

Just in case you’ve already forgotten, Facebook’s Status messages (2011) have a history that goes back aways. Hot tip: Read about the Unix “finger” command (with Plan/Project info) and AIM “Away Messages”

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